Underground Palestinian leaders may soon issue a "declaration of independence" designed to fill the power vacuum left by Jordan in Israeli-occupied territory, Palestinian sources said Friday.
The declaration, according to one Palestinian source, would be an effort to pave the way for local contact with Israeli authorities and circumvent Israeli opposition to dealing with the PLO in the wake of Jordan's severing of ties with the West Bank.Jordan's King Hussein ignited debate over the future of the occupied lands with a series of measures aimed at cutting legal and administrative ties.
In the latest such move, Hussein on Thursday fired 21,200 teachers, hospital workers, agriculture officials and others with a payroll of $45 million a year.
Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir and other officials said Friday that for political and financial reasons, Israel would not step in to assume the role being abandoned by Hussein.
At the same time, Israeli officials made clear they would not agree to let the Palestine Liberation Organization take over the functions.
The Palestinian source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said local groups such as doctors and lawyers' unions would replace Jordanian-run organizations.
He said the declaration was a "serious option," and drafts are being studied by the United National Leadership for the Uprising, a clandestine group linked to the PLO.
The Arab rebellion in the occupied territories broke out Dec. 8. Since then, 236 Palestinians and four Israelis have been been killed.
The source said the proposed declaration implicitly recognizes Israel's right to exist and calls for a state in "only part of Palestine" - a reference to territory occupied in the 1967 Middle East war.
The underground leaders, who have directed anti-Israeli resistance with weekly communiques, may publish the document in leaflet form in the next few weeks, the source said. He said any such move would be coordinated with the PLO.
Another Palestinian source, however, said the declaration failed to gain approval at a secret meeting two weeks ago of supporters of PLO chief Yasser Arafat's outlawed Fatah organization.
He said the draft was set aside temporarily for fear it would be rejected by hard-line and Syrian-backed PLO factions.
Journalist Daoud Kuttab was the only Palestinian to openly support the idea of a declaration, endorsing the proposal in an article.
"We can ask the rest of the world to start recognizing us and the dream will become reality without waiting for the solution to be served up to us on a silver platter at an international conference," Kuttab wrote in the Israeli-Arab weekly Al Sinara published in Nazareth.
In Amman, Jordan, a senior PLO official said Friday that Arafat would soon visit the kingdom to discuss the implications of Hussein's actions.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not say when the visit would be. But he said a senior Palestinian delegation was expected within days to prepare for the visit.
Among the Palestinian employees fired by Jordan were 5,200 civil servants who continued in their jobs after Israel's West Bank military government was created in 1967.